No Quick Fix: Rethinking Literacy Programs in America’s Elementary Schools
Allingston, Richard L. and Walmsley, Sean A.

A Book Summary by Becca

There are many different theories on how literacy programs in America’s elementary schools should be planned and operated. Traditionally, we have looked at retention as the solution. America’s schools have also confused special education and remedial reading programs. Children who needed remedial reading help have been labeled as special education. In addition, reading programs have not used “real literature,” but instead literature that is written for the purpose of a lesson. Students were pulled out of classes and were taught reading separate from the class. This often alienated them from their classmates.

Today, the authors believe that there are much more effective methods to helping students with reading difficulties. Retention is both ineffective and expensive. Schools are finding that early intervention plans such as Reading Recovery are much more effective and cost efficient. Early intervention has significant, positive, long-term effects. Special education and reading education should be used for different needs. In the past, students with reading difficulties have been placed in special education, experts now say that special education is not the place for them.

Different teaching approaches have also been shown to enhance students learning. Portfolios should be used when assessing students. Assessment in reading and writing needs to come from various sources, not simply tests. Also, story retelling, directed listening and thinking activity, F.R.O.G. and other such methods are recommended. Many teachers and school are finding the block approach to be very effective. They find that this is the way for out modern classrooms to “have it all.”

No Quick Fix also emphasizes eliminating ability grouping. Traditionally, students are placed into three or four groups, arranged by reading ability. Studies show that heterogeneous grouping is much more effective. It is now recommended that reading groups have one high level, one low level and three average level readers in each group.

The goal of educators should be not simply to have students score will on tests, but to have them be genuinely literate. This means more than the student can do a task. It means that the student enjoys reading and writing, can communicate effectively in speech and in written form, has good listening skills and is growing in knowledge of the world. These goals are much different from the goals of “schools of the past.” The way that educators know that literacy skills should be taught reflects these goals. Experts now know that all reading programs need a “strong core cirriculum.” In addition, many schools now are incorporating language arts in to different subject areas. This is not only more practical, but makes it so that the students use literacy skills in all of their classroom tasks. Educators also are beginning to understand the importance of integrating remedial reading programs into the cirriculum.

The other major aspect that this book discusses is that our teachers need training – lots of it. We can not expect our teachers to simply know and use new theories and techniques on their own. Schools need to teach them, just as our students need us to teach them how to do their tasks. Help from the community is now more often accepted in the classroom than ever.

The overall theme of No Quick Fix is that Change is Good! America's schools need to change their attitudes and methods. The above are simply starting points. As professionals learn more, they will make more changes.

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